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Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Die Walküre (1870)
Brünnhilde ... Deborah Polaski (soprano)
Sieglinde ... Linda Watson (soprano)
Wotan ... Falk Struckmann (bass)
Siegmund ... Richard Berkeley-Steele (tenor)
Hunding ... Eric Halfvarsen (bass)
Fricka ... Lioba Braun (soprano)
Gerhilde ... Sabine Braum
Ortlinde ... Annegeer Stumphius
Waltraute ... Marisa Altmann-Althausen
Schwertleite ... Andrea Bönig
Helmwige ... Heike Gierhardt
Siegrune ... Mireia Pintó
Rossweise ... Francisca Beaumont
Gran Teatre del Liceu Symphony Orchestra/Bertrand de Billy
Directed by Harry Kupfer
Recorded 18, 27 June 2003, Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona
OPUS ARTE OA 0911 D [3 DVDs: 250.00]


The continuing release of the Barcelona Ring cycle is of course an important addition to the DVD catalogue. The director, Harry Kupfer, has strong Wagnerian credentials and his production has abundant interest for anyone who is interested in Wagner.

The cast has been carefully assembled and they work well as a team, both dramatically and musically. This is at its most palpable during the opening scene of Act III, when the assembled valkyries make a fine noise and use the stage to maximum effect. While each individual is experienced as a talented singer suitable to the appropriate role, there are some outstanding performances that rate special mention. Lioba Braun, for instance, is an excellent Fricka. Her stage and vocal presences confirm that Wotan must follow her command in the Hunding-Siegmund confrontation.

The Siegmund and Sieglinde, Richard Berkeley-Steele and Linda Watson, work tirelessly and effectively in carrying the drama of Act I. Perhaps she appears a little matronly, but vocally she is well up to the mark.

Falk Struckmann is a strongly characterised Wotan who creates a more than one-dimensional response to the role, while Deborah Polaskiís interpretation of Brünnhilde generates great intensity. She remains a leading Wagnerian singer of our time, a position she has occupied for more than a decade now.

Where the musical side of things is more strained is in the orchestral department. Taken from two live performances, the recording cannot altogether hide the fact that the Liceu orchestra is good but not outstanding. And given Wagnerís uncompromising demands in these quarters, is good good enough? Not that the performance wonít give pleasure musically - it most definitely will - but set against competition of the calibre of James Levine and Metropolitan Opera, there is a better musical experience out there for the collector looking to make a definitive choice.

Bertrand de Billy is a fine Wagner conductor, and his performance whips up plenty of fire, if occasionally the tension is allowed to sag. The ending of Act I is particularly exciting, for example, whereas the Magic Fire Music in Act III is something of a damp squib.

On DVD and video it is not just a matter of the visual production with the music, there is also the challenge of conveying this on screen through the camera work and editing. Kupferís is a grey production, in many senses of the word, and the cameras fail significantly to bring it to life. Perhaps the Opus Arte director had too few options at his disposal and had to rely on zooming in and out.

This is such a great score that any professional performance featuring talented singers and company will have its compelling aspects. That is the case here, but for this reviewer at least, the rival versions conducted by Levine (DG) or Barenboim (Teldec) are more rewarding.

Terry Barfoot
De Billy is a fine Wagner conductor, and his performance whips up plenty of fire, if occasionally the tension is allowed to sag. ... a professional performance that has its compelling aspects. ... see Full Review

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